Most of our objectives were met at Champs — Gobourn, BennettTuesday, May 25, 2021
BY PAUL A REID
Despite not managing to dethrone Edwin Allen High as the girls' champions at the recent Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships, the coaches of both St Jago High and Hydel High who were second and third, respectively, said most of their objectives at the five-day event were met.
St Jago High led after the first day but once they took over after the second day, Edwin Allen pulled away to win their seventh-straight title, amassing 340 points, comfortably ahead of St Jago High's 309.50 points with Hydel High in third place on 301.50 points.
With fewer schools taking part this year on account of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which had caused the cancellation of the championships in 2020, the top three scored more points this year than two years ago when Edwin Allen High scored 291 points, just seven more than Hydel High on 284 with St Jago High in fourth place on 207 points.
In addition to the performances of their athletes who had to undergo a tough year while preparing for the event, the coaches also had high praise for the organisers of the championships and were relieved that the event, which at one time looked to be in doubt, was held.
“We want to laud the organisers of Champs, special commendations to the JAAA (Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association) and ISSA for going above and beyond in ensuring that Champs 2021 was a reality,” Keilando Goburn, the head coach of the St Jago girls' team said.
“Garth Gayle and his team at JAAA, Keith Wellington and his team at ISSA, David Riley of the coaches' association, and all the other stakeholders and government entities, I want to thank all of them for giving the children an opportunity to showcase their talent,” he said, adding:
“If Champs had been cancelled for a second year it would have been catastrophic. I don't think that some of the athletes would have been able to find the strength to come back out and train again, so I am extremely grateful for the opportunity. I had been advocating from day one 'opportunity over outcome' and I am still thankful that we got the chance even though it was far from what we are accustomed to, but at the end of the day we had Champs.”
Corey Bennett, the Hydel High head coach, said despite a tough schedule, the organisers did their best to put on a safe event. “I believe they did a very good job in trying to keep everyone safe and to also get us all home before the curfew. I believe that the schedule was brutal to many of our young athletes though but all in all I believe the organisers did well.”
Regarding reaching their goals at Champs, Bennett told the Jamaica Observer, “I believe we had a very good championships. I feel pleased that my athletes came out and delivered on what was asked of them... we are actually in the month of May, and for them and so many others to be achieving some outstanding personal bests is simply awesome.
“Our main goal was for everyone who competed to achieve a personal best and more than 80 per cent of the team achieved that goal, and with that our overall target was met.”
Hydel High had just two boys competing at Champs this year and while the girls were more prominent he said both teams achieved what was expected of them.
“Our target was met with our female team, but I honestly believe that our only two boys on our male team definitely overachieved by both scoring in their events to finish in the top 20 in the boys' team standings,” he said of the six points the boys scored.
“The bravery shown by Zion Bennett in the decathlon and in particular the pole vault was quite remarkable/crazy and definitely goes down as our most inspiring moment and definitely an overachieving moment.”
Zion, who is Bennett's son, had not practised for the pole vault but managed to clear 2.20m on his way to placing seventh overall in the decathlon.
Bennett thinks that every athlete who took part in the five-day event this year “are stars in their own right, especially to be competing so late into the season and to be doing it at such a high level”.
When asked specifically which athletes on his team he would highlight, he singled out “our skipper Garriel White, she definitely led from the front and deserves all the praise for performing excellently at the recently concluded Champs”.
White won the 400m hurdles Open, was second in the Class One 400m and anchored the 4x400m relay team to the gold medal.
Goburn acknowledged that Champs “was a tough week; it was a very challenging week”, he told the Observer. “We were fully mindful of the task ahead but we made an additional effort to manage the athletes throughout the championships. I think that is what made the difference for us; we went above and beyond to manage them, in and out of competition.”
He said he also thought they did well. “Thought we achieved 90 per cent of our objectives and that caused us to remain competitive and relevant and in the top two for all five days of Champs.”
Goburn said he felt his team did about what they were expected to do going into Champs. “Basically, I don't think we had overachieved, all the persons who achieved were the ones who we had expected to achieve. I thought we under performed in the 200m and the 400m and this goes back to the preparation which was topsy-turvy, and we will be examining those areas and try to prevent any recurrence.”
He initially shied away from singling out individuals, saying, “We would not want to point out any individuals but if you look at the groups, the middle-distance girls came and delivered; the throws and jumps were great; the sprints could have been better. I think that area was hit the most by the pandemic; the hurdles were good also; for the most parts we did well.”
He did eventually talk about the contribution of two of the team leaders — Chantae Foreman and Joanne Reid — the former who he said ended up with three gold medals and a bronze and the latter who he said “had a tough Saturday but she stuck to the task. We spoke the night before and she knew what to expect — four races in five hours — and she delivered, but it was the middle-distance girls that gave us that feeling of joy to see where we are coming from five points to 64 points”.
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